brixboard digital notice board

Empowering local traders with varying levels of tech literacy

Designing an inclusive solution to a common problem amongst traders

The Challenge

Develop a new way to support, empower, or change the behavior of a group around a shared area of interest

The Outcome

A community display encouraging traders with varied levels of tech literacy/access to work together towards a common goal


Four international students and I completed this project over three months for an Interaction Design module. My role was that of researcher, designer, and video editor. The task was to use a human-centered design approach to develop a new way to support, empower, or change the behavior of a group (Brixton Village traders) around a shared area of interest.

Brixton Village and Market Row are historic indoor markets in Brixton, a district of south London. The markets house over 125 shops, restaurants, and grocers.


Initial Research

Initial research involved traveling to Brixton Village (BV) with my team to observe the market and interview traders & employees to learn more about the community. Interviewees varied in age, gender, and business type. We also visited a nearby competitor (Pop Brixton) mentioned in interviews. In addition, two team members and I interviewed BV management.

team waiting outside of brixton village
Four team members stand outside BV before conducting interviews
me interviewing BV management in his office
I interviewed a member of BV Management to learn how he communicated with traders

Thematic Analysis

We compiled data from interview recordings, interview notes, and observations and wrote it on sticky notes. Then used the sticky notes to create an affinity diagram to uncover themes in our research. Top themes included (1) Communication - traders don't communicate / feel lonely / disunited, (2) Money - cash only and inconvenient ATMs make it harder to buy, and (3) Technology - some traders use modern technology while other do not. As a team, we chose to focus on communication.

sticky notes on a wall categorized by group
We created an affinity diagram to help organize research data

In-Situ Survey

After our analysis, we conducted an in-situ survey of 20 BV traders and employees to explore their communication and information seeking behavior. The goal was to test the following assumptions: (1) traders/employees want more say in BV village decisions, (2) traders/employees are lonely and need help connecting and (3) the way traders/employees get information now is disorganized.

Top findings were (1) speaking face-to-face is #1 method of communication within BV, (2) news is received from co-workers (40%), BV management (30%), social media (25%), and local publications (15%), (3) respondents don’t report wanting more say in decision making processes, and (4) communication within BV is perceived as disorganized. In addition, respondents felt a need for PR/Marketing opportunities.

Ipad with our google survey
We gathered 20 responses "in-situ" at BV via iPads
assumptions that were disproved included that traders wanted more say in BV decisions and that they were lonely
Data from the survey contradicted some of our assumptions

Incorporation of New Findings

We incorporated survey findings into our affinity diagram, adjusting categories and groupings when needed. The result was a more specific focus: communication between businesses, trader-management communication, and communication of Brixton Village news to traders.

Define & Ideate

Establishment of Design Principles

Interview, observation, and survey findings were used to create design principles. We determined that the solution needed to be (1) inexpensive to implement, (2) accessible to users with varying levels of tech literacy / access, (3) integratabtle into trader’s current workflow, and (4) engaging for traders/management.


To begin, each team member brainstormed using the 10+10 method. Next, we presented our sketches and consolidated similar concepts. Then we mapped ideas according to impact and feasibility on a 2x2 matrix. Finally, we chose an idea with a good balance of feasibility and impact to pursue: digital portals that allowed traders to communicate with each other and management.

sketches of quickly thought up ideas
Sketches from the 10+10 exercise explore an idea for sharing news
matrix showing how ideas ranked based on feasibility and impact
A digital portal ranked relatively high in impact and feasibility

Definition of Requirements

As a team, we crafted user stories based on research-backed personas (created by a team member) to determine portal functionalities. We then conducted a card sorting activity with BV traders to test our assumptions. Traders were asked to rank functionalities (eg. contact management, read BV news) from most to least important. According to card sort, top features for traders were (1) access BV news, (2) contact management, (3) post and view events, and (4) view memos from management.

job stories written on a whiteboard
We wrote job stories as a team to translate research data into more specific user needs
index cards with features written on them
Traders ranked features from most to least important

Refine & Test

Idea Overview

To facilitate communication between traders and the community, we pivoted from a private portal to a public display. This display would serve as a digital notice board where traders could post shout-outs, share events, and read news sourced from local media. To increase reach, events and shoutouts would push to BV's social media channels. We named the design Brixboard.

To ensure traders of all levels of tech access and tech literacy could post to the board, we came up with three modalities: SMS chatbot (for those without access to internet), email, and social media.

sketch showing news items as squares and shout outs as speech bubbles
The design I proposed to the team used shapes to differentiate content type
drawing showing how traders could post to brixboard
Content can be added to the Brixboard by traders via text, email, or social media
visual mockup of brixboard
A high-fidelity mockup created by a teammate based on my sketch

Design & Testing of Input Methods

A team member and I created a user flow for the SMS chatbot that covered posting/editing/deleting an event or shoutout and exported the results as a diagram.

diagram showing possible branches for chatbot
Diagram mapping the chatbot user flow my teammate and I created

Since trader’s busy schedules prevented them from participating in user testing, we relied on a linguistically and culturally diverse convenience sample (10 students from an international student hall). We used the Wizard of Oz technique combined with think aloud to test our user flow.

students sitting around tables in a cafeteria
We tested the chatbot in the dining hall of an international student accommodation
drawing of interaction between user and testing team
A hidden team member sent pre-set responses to participants's phones to simulate the chatbot

Most users found the chatbot straightforward and east to use. However, testing did reveal that some messages, such as "When is your event?", did not make the desired response format clear. We fixed this by adding further instructions (eg. reply in DD/MM/YY format).

Present Design

We created a video to present our idea to a panel of professors. I was in charge of storyboarding, directing, and producing the video. The purpose of the video was to (1) frame the problem, (2) introduce our idea, and (3) show the idea in action.

roughly drawn storyboard for the videoscreenshots from the final video
I created storyboards for the video, which guided the final video.

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